The macular carotenoids are associated with cognitive function in preadolescent children

Sarah E. Saint, Lisa M. Renzi-Hammond, Naiman A. Khan, Charles H. Hillman, Janet E. Frick, Billy R. Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The macular carotenoids lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) are obtained via diet and accumulate in the central retina where they are referred to as macular pigment. The density of this biomarker (macular pigment optical density; MPOD) has been positively correlated with cognitive functioning via measures of global cognition, processing speed, and visual-spatial abilities, among others. Although improvements in cognitive function have been found in adults, much less is known about how L and Z intake may support or improve cognitive functioning during periods of rapid developmental change, such as childhood and pre-adolescence. This study examined the relationship between MPOD and cognitive functioning in 51 7–13-year-old children (51% female). MPOD was measured using heterochromatic flicker photometry (HFP) optimized for this age group. Cognitive function was assessed using the Woodcock-Johnson III (composite standard scores were obtained for Brief Intellectual Ability, Verbal Ability, Cognitive Efficiency, Processing Speed, and Executive Processes). In this sample, MPOD was significantly related to Executive Processes, r(47) = 0.288, p < 0.05, and Brief Intellectual Ability, r(47) = 0.268, p < 0.05. The relationship to Cognitive Efficiency was positive and trending but not significant, r(49) = 0.206, p = 0.074. In general, these data are consistent with those of adults showing a link between higher carotenoid status and improved cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number193
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 10 2018


  • Children
  • Cognition
  • Lutein
  • Macular pigment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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